Stories: On the Farm
Ed Willis - Thallon, QLD, Australia
Australian Growers Striving for Improvement
“Bullamon Plains” is an award-winning farm enterprise of 20,000 hectares of grazing, dryland and irrigated cropping at Thallon, Queensland. The farm has been in the Willis family since 1928.
In the 2010-11 season, “Bullamon Plains” grew its largest-ever cotton crop of 1,432 hectares, with an average yield of 11.4 bales per ha. It has taken out the local cotton crop competition for the past three years. The farm is fully myBMP accredited and in 2011, “Bullamon Plains” also won the district Tidy Farm Award, evidenced by an immaculate property with literally no apparent weeds and all machinery kept in top working order. Not only does this look good, it means that weeds and diseases are under control and there’s a safe working environment for the farm’s 10 full and part-time employees.
“Bullamon Plains” is at the leading edge of water use efficiency, with water budgets and timing of irrigations critical to success. Most of the property is under bankless channels of 750m – 800m runs, with four different watering systems being trialled; bankless rooftop, bankless one-way rooftop, one-way GL bay and the traditional siphon system. The whole farm can now be irrigated in four days, with soil moisture precisely measured using c-probes, push probes and the “soil scratch” test. Each watering is precisely timed, with all water data entered into the system and used in future decision making. The bankless channel system has seen a labour cost saving of over 90% with equal or better water use efficiency results.
Cotton production at “Bullamon Plains” is highly scientific. Data is collected for every aspect of the farming operation and overlayed in order to make evidence-based decisions and forward plans. This includes yield mapping, water use efficiency, electro-magnetic surveys and picking data. There is plenty of flexibility in the system to allow changes in-season, and an annual comparative analysis allows the team to benchmark and monitor progress against others in the district. The “Bullamon Plains” team are great industry collaborators and strong believers in sharing their knowledge, hungry for any research that will help them improve the operation.
The passion of the team, combined with extensive experience and great management skills, has seen “Bullamon Plains” become a showcase cotton property in the district, and for the whole industry.